Monday, April 18, 2011

I Can't Fathom Why They Were Shut Out in the First Place

The Forward has a piece up on Jewish Voice for Peace (an organization which, I have to admit, I thought was much older than its 2001 birthdate) and its effort gain "a seat at the [Jewish] communal table." The controversy is that the JVP either endorses or plays footsy with a number of radical positions -- from a one-state solution to the global BDS -- that the broader Jewish community considers well beyond the pale.

And in their latest gambit that's sure to demonstrate their mainstream-i-ness, JVP's executive director, Rebecca Vilkomerson, is endorsing the new Move Over AIPAC group, which is heading to DC during AIPAC's conference in order to reveal "the extraordinary influence AIPAC has on U.S. policy and how to strengthen an alternative that respects the rights of all people in the region."

And what better way to kick that project off than by honoring Helen Thomas, who infamously declared that the Jewish people in the region should "get the hell out". Now that's respecting rights (as the Judeosphere put it in response to Mondoweiss' astounding defense of Thomas -- that expelling Jews from the Middle East would be a good thing because it might reinvigorate Polish Jewish culture: "I'm deeply touched by this gesture of philanthropic ethnic cleansing.").

Other "luminaries" endorsing the event include Alice Walker and Naomi Klein. Yeah, I don't expect to see JVP at any communal seder tables in the near future.

Actually, you know who the JVP and its buddies are really emulating? Herman Cain. As Adam Serwer notes, Cain's statements are self-evidently not calculated to heighten the appeal of GOP policies to the African-American community. If anything, they're gratuitously alienating to Blacks. What Cain does do is nakedly appeal to the prejudices of White conservatives, who eat it up extra-hungrily because its coming from a Black man. Ditto the JVP -- if their goal is to "gain a seat" at the Jewish communal table, well, yer' doin' it wrong. But if their goal is to gain a seat at a table of folks who never really were big fans of Jewish communal expression and autonomy to begin with, but don't like to think of themselves as anti-Semitic -- well, they're doing it absolutely right. And for the same reason that I don't expect to see Cain keynoting the NAACP convention, I don't see the JVP's exile being lifted anytime soon.

UPDATE: Thomas has withdrawn from the event, saying she didn't want to "distract" from the group's message.

14 comments:

Rebecca said...

Agreed. I don't want JVP to have a place at the Jewish organizational table because I don't think they deserve it. J-Street - yes. But the people involved in JVP are explicitly anti-Zionist, pro-one state, pro-BDS. Also, I might point out, a lot of them aren't even Jewish - Alice Walker, anyone?

M.S. said...

Besides all of that i have serious doubts that their membership could possibly represent very many jews at all. What i mean is, for all their whining about being left out, they can't possibly represent a large enough proportion of the population to be considered for inclusion. Except for ya know, with folks desperately trying to find asajews

Jerry Haber said...

Endorsing a conference doesn't mean endorsing all the organizer's choices for speakers. Before you tar groups by association, why don't you try to get JVP's stance on the particular speakers chosen. They have a website. Contact JVP.

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David Schraub said...

Well, Naomi Klein is on the JVP's advisory board, so it's a little more than a random association.

As for Helen Thomas, the JVP did denounce Thomas' comments (albeit somewhat half-heartedly). Nonetheless, it's not like she's "some dude" at this thing -- they're giving her an award. She's more than a speaker -- she is the emblem of the sort of "alternative" they wished to see more of.

Now, if the JVP thinks giving Thomas an award is inappropriate, and tried to raise that objection with their new partners to no avail, I'll gladly post an update. But that really wouldn't obviate the larger point, whch is that by all appearances "Move over AIPAC" is approximately as serious as the ZOA with regard to "respect[ing] the rights of all people in the region." And the JVP is part of that same illiberal camp.

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Bella said...

JVP tries to gain mainstream acceptance by going 'half-way' on one state/two state issue and BDS but nobody is fooled.